Worth Repeating

I see all those voices out there promoting their insight, their experience, their knowledge in living color, chalking up another successful day in pictures. All this confidence and glitter, and the older I get, the more I realize that I have nothing to add to this sea of information and achievement. As the Wise Preacher once said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) But maybe it is too easy to grow silent under the babel of the big wide world, assume that only the newest and brightest has the right to be heard.

Someone reminded me this week that Truth doesn’t get old, does not lose its value just because it has already been said a million times. The more true it is, the more it bears repeating, and in its consistent Light we are changed into better people: more effective parents, more loyal spouses, better friends, wiser decision-makers, harder workers. Not because we are listening to the right research or the most important influencers, but because the source of that age-old Truth is above all the clamor, stands apart as the Source of life itself. The old prophet is worth quoting: “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.” (1 Peter 1:24-25)

Don’t we think the Maker should get the first word on what makes us beautiful or what makes our lives worth something? I can read all the resources out there from everyone who knows what they are doing, and learn much from them, but I find that there is only one place to turn when it comes to life-change. And that is what I need, most of all. I need more patience and more kindness for others. I need to be able to forgive and to heal from the hurts of this life. I need humility, and generosity, and hope, and a thousand other character qualities that have nothing to do with information and everything to do with transformation from the inside-out. Like the Church-Planter says, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:1-2) It’s not about getting the right life according to the experts. It’s about getting the right heart that knows what real life is: an everlasting life following the One Who matters most.

So maybe you don’t have to be an expert or an influencer to have something worthwhile to say. You just have to know the Truth and be humble enough, brave enough, to keep saying it. In every way you can, to whomever has ears to hear, over and over on repeat. Let God’s wisdom prove its own influence on every situation.

~~~~~~~

It’s not that we need a new truth or a different truth or different hacks. We need the same truths over and over in whatever the new circumstance is that God has given us.

Laura Jensen

~~~~~~~

For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He holds success in store for the upright, He is a shield to those whose walk is blameless, for He guards the course of the just and protects the way of His faithful ones.

Proverbs 2:6-8

Unshakeable

When the voice of the Accuser echoes in your head, the only way to stand under the onslaught is to plant your feet on the Scriptures and take shelter under the truth of what God said thousands of years ago: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; You are Mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)

There is a Love that has no limit, drawn in the black and white lines of the written Word, painted in graphic strokes at the Cross.  “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet My unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.” (Isaiah 54:10)

This is reality that does not change, firm ground on which to build a life, no matter how much your feet falter. This is how Paul could say with such unshakeable certainty, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7) 

No fiery darts of the Enemy can harm me when I am resting under the shadow of the Almighty One. “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.” (Romans 8:34) Overcoming is nothing more than keeping on till the end, persevering one day at a time until suddenly the race is over. I don’t have to be big and brave, or strong and amazing. Only be His and not get discouraged under the weight of this world.

Some days your heart just needs to cling to the Cross, and gaze at the Savior who loves you more than life, count your soul safe and whole in Him, regardless of how the battle rages all around.

~~~~~~~

I have this hope
As an anchor for my soul:
Through every storm
I will hold to You.

With endless love
All my fear is swept away;
In everything,
I will trust in You.

There is hope in the promise of the cross:
You gave everything to save the world You love,
And this hope is an anchor for my soul.
Our God will stand
Unshakeable...

Anchor, Hillsong Worship

~~~~~~~

And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before Him He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Hebrews 12:2-3

Who Are You?

We are born connected, us women….wired for relationships and emotional sensitivity from the very first day. We are children of the first Woman, who was shaped from the stuff of the only other creature like her, and given the name Helper-who-is-just-right. Like her, we are made to live in relationship to others, and it is in coming alongside others that we find our highest satisfaction and purpose. It is our strength, as women. Maybe that is why we so often define ourselves by those relationships and the roles we fill in the lives of others: daughter, sister, friend, wife, mother, grandmother. I know who I am in those frameworks, and it makes me feel safe and loved.

Where does that leave me then, when those roles shift and dissolve, relationships grow or fade or get hopelessly tangled with time, as relationships tend to do… how do I find myself in the muddle, or hang onto a sense of Self that is slipping away in the current of changing circumstances? Who am I, on the inside, when I am alone and quiet at the end of the day– and isn’t it easier just to keep covering up that silent question with rushing around from one thing to the other and shopping and media?

Maybe all that connectivity blinds us to the bigger reality, that man and woman were made to be Image-Bearers, to reflect an invisible God to the rest of creation and rule over it on His behalf. Before I ever connected to any people, or took on any roles in their lives, I belonged to the Creator, was fashioned by His own hands and heart. As the Musician-King David wrote, “…You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb….my frame was not hidden from You when I was being made in secret.” (Psalm 139:13, 15 ) Even more, designed purposefully and skillfully to be in this place at this time in history to do His work here. David speaks plainly of the Creator’s knowledge of each person: “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed. How precious are your thoughts about me, O God. They cannot be numbered!” (Psalm 139:16-17)

So where else would I discover who I really am, except from the One who made me and knows me best? I am His craftsmanship– it is He who decided everything from the color of my hair to the details of my personality. When I look at others to tell me who I am, to define me and give my life meaning, am I not putting their perspectives above His? Superimposing the definitions and values of the Created over the blueprint of the Creator King? How easily the strengths we have been given as women can slide down into simple idolatry.

We are born connected to others and the world around us, true. But we are born to be connected to the God who loves us and names us His, first of all, and it is in Him we find out who we really are. We find out who He made us to be– how He sees us– and who we are becoming as we follow Him. And the Church-planter Paul writes about how it is so much more than we ever would have dreamed: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (Ephesians 2:10)

So lift up your head and look the world square in the eye, you beautiful creature. You are known intimately by the God of heaven and earth. You are loved with a Forever-love. You have been chosen for a purpose that cannot be taken away.

~~~~~~~

He whispers in my ear, tells me that I am fearless.
He shares a melody, tells me to repeat it.
And He makes me whole, He reminds my soul-
I am all He says I am…
And He says I am His own.

All he says I am, Gateway Worship

~~~~~~~

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.

Ephesians 3:18

Reminders for The Race

There is just this to say, to those running hard in the faith-race and maybe losing perspective:

You are never too far along to shed your skin and be made new. And neither is anyone else.  Because “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18) He is still calling people closer to Him and He will not stop till the final breath. Don’t give up on our ability to change, in the Creator’s hands.

God’s promises are not too big for ordinary people to lay hold of. His resurrection power is at work in this world, and in us, whether or not we have eyes to see it. He is the Creator of all this ordinary who says “I have loved you with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), and promises that He is working every last little thing into His good plans for us, and the ordinary will all be made extraordinary, in the end. That’s why Jesus came down here, remember? “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9)

The words He gave us are not simply inspiring thoughts and lofty ideals. No, they are  breathed out by His Spirit into the concrete limits of ink and paper, and yet by His power remain “living and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword…and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12) They are wisdom and reality, meant for us to take hold of and put into practice, despite what society may call normal and our experiences may tell us to settle for.

Just because you haven’t found your happy ending, doesn’t mean there is no such thing…and let me tell you this: your story is not over yet. Life in this world may have wounded and disappointed, time and again, and I know what it is to build walls against the hurt, and to learn to walk carefully, but how can you live Real and still keep the deepest places walled up?  There is a choice there, and you have to know there is Someone who intends to be those protecting walls for you– the sooner you learn to run to Him as a safe place to hide, the healthier your heart will be.

The Musician-King knew all about loneliness, and grief, and betrayal, and his songs are about his own real life journey: “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the LORD: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; He is my God, and I trust Him….He will cover you with His feathers. He will shelter you with His wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection.” (Psalm 91:1-2, 4) God defines what is right and good and beautiful and true with the Person of Jesus, and all this is His Story, from beginning to end– the Hero who slays the dragon, rescues the girl, and brings her home to His Father the King to live happily-ever-after.

See, when you are still in the middle of your story, where the action and the conflict is, it is easy to forget that all of us Jesus-followers get happy endings. What you see now is only a few chapters so far, and all the characters aren’t even fully developed yet. The Author is the only One who sees the entire story from Beginning to End– so don’t get sidetracked, muddling through the pages, and conclude this is all there is. I’m with the Church-Planter Paul, on this one: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18) 

So pick yourself up when people disappoint, and life hurts… and keep on running. Fasten your eyes on Jesus, pour out your heart to Him, and don’t give up. “…Hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) 

Remind each other of this, and keep on keeping on.

~~~~~~~

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

~~~~~~~

Your vow’s a covenant unbroken
You’ve made it known through history
Your love will never be unfaithful
Never walk out on me…
I have no reason to doubt you
Who You’ve been You’ll always be
And though the future’s still unfolding
With everything I’ve seen
How could I not believe?

You are a promise keeper
Your word will never fail

Promise Keeper, Hope Darst

The Kind of Woman God Can Use

We talk in our small group about how to be a woman that pleases God– often hesitantly, all too aware of how we might not measure up, comparing ourselves to others as women tend to do, and the unspoken worry running underneath…what if the way I am made can never be good enough? And I look around the circle at these women, so different but for their desire to do well for their families and please their Creator, and I wish I could speak straight into their hearts that they are made the way they are by God’s design.

We all get that ideal woman in our heads sometimes (probably an amalgamation of every woman we ever admired, real or fictional, and believe me, I know how exhausting it is to try to live up to that). But let me say it straight out that God has no such illusions, and He knows perfectly well who you are and what you can do. There is actually no perfect wife or mother out there to compare yourself to, and there are no absolute standards for personality or abilities. There is just each one of us…with our own strengths and weaknesses…put in a particular place at a specific time…and created to do the certain things God has for us to do here. Each one completely known and treasured by Him. Jesus said it this way: “What is the price of five sparrows—two copper coins? Yet God does not forget a single one of them. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.” (Luke 12:6-7) 

The person you are was hand-made by a God who saw you and loved you before anyone else did. He wired us all with endless diversity of expression. More importantly, the genetic traits that shape our bodies and minds, and the family influences that mold our thoughts are only the beginning. Like Paul says, “…if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17) What freedom and abundance we are gifted with, at our second birth!

When we choose to follow after Him, He gives us so much more to work with: principles of beauty, guidelines of wisdom, boundaries of living well…. and then He says “Go and be yourself, fully alive in the power of my Spirit, the way I intended you to be.”

So the speak-before-you think one learns to listen. And the people-pleaser learns to set healthy boundaries. And the take-charge one learns to follow another’s lead. Each of us learning to serve and to surrender. Each of us choosing to put to death our own selfish bent. Each of us practicing obedience to God– whatever that may look like, moment by moment. No question that each of us will wrestle with our own private fears and our own personal griefs…no two alike, so no comparing of skill or blessing or gain. Better to focus instead on the wonderful truth that God sees and hears all of us. “O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.” (Psalm 139:1-2) 

And I can look around the room and see how there is a beauty that grows in a woman as she grows closer to Jesus. It’s a light in her eyes and a softness in her manner that shows she has been in the presence of Grace. It has nothing to do with whether she tends to be talkative or reserved, organized or flighty. It is not a matter of personality but a matter of spirit. It is all about the company we keep and how we are growing. Again Paul writes, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

I wish I could tell them all how they shine in His light.

~~~~~~~

For You formed my inward parts; You knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14-15

~~~~~~~

My heart and my soul,
I give you control;
Consume me from the inside out, Lord.
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace,
To love you from the inside out….
And the cry of my heart is to bring You praise
From the inside out,
Lord, my soul cries out.

From The Inside Out, Hillsong

Trusting Love

Originally published on February 3, 2012.

If I had a nickel for every time someone told me “I have trust issues,” I would be rich right now. And besides, don’t we all, in one way or another? Especially after this last year of world-wide upheaval and craziness. When I look around at all the ways our broken hearts hurt each other…and the sting of rejection each of us has felt for not being Enough …and the sheer insistence on self-promotion and self-interest and self-wellbeing in every area of life, the real question is how any of our scarred, let-down, betrayed hearts could be healed enough to trust. And it is a vital question, because our very lives depend on it. I keep thinking of how Jesus pulled a little child close and told the disciples: “…unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3). If it takes the innocence and inexperience of a small child, we are all of us coming much too late to the table.

But what if trust is not a matter of how much we know of life’s ugliness, but how well we know we are deeply loved? What if it is not about keeping a heart whole, but about giving up trying, and accepting the brokenness and the weakness as the reason to run to Someone Bigger? It is the humility and transparency of a child that brings us to the Kingdom; the utter unselfconsciousness of knowing our need and knowing that we belong to Someone who will take care of us. In the kingdom, trust equals surrender to the King, and it makes me think that often our trust issues are more a matter of how well we know HIm and what we believe about Him.

I often think of Amy Carmichael, a pastor’s kid in the mid-1800s, who grew up involved in ministry to the poor of Northern Ireland– a girl who knew the presence of God from childhood.  When she was 20 she heard the missionary pioneer Hudson Taylor (founder of China Inland Mission) speaking in England, and followed God’s call into missions work herself.  Not to China, but to India, where her heart was torn open at the discovery of young girls sold into prostitution in the Hindu temples. The Dohnavur Fellowship that she began there, soon became orphanage and school and home to eventually over a thousand children that she rescued, all of whom called her Amah (“mother”). It is an inspiring story, but what stands out about her most is the intimacy of her relationship with God and how it shaped and defined her life.

Amy was sickly and weak all her adult life, never married, a prolific writer from her bed where she was often confined, loving and self-giving, and brave as a lion when it came to rescuing a child who needed help.  She once said that missions work was “a chance to die”….to self, to comfort, to all but the love and life of the Savior.  And in that hot, dusty, hard place in southern India, she found the love of God a never-ending fountain of Living Water, enough to quench her own thirst and enough to heal the hurting children she loved.

Despite the poverty and disease and children bearing unthinkable things, Amy could say “…cruelty and wrong are not the greatest forces in the world. There is nothing eternal in them. Only love is eternal.” She devoted her life to pursuing her Savior and loving others as He had loved her. She saw the reckless love of God that leaves Heaven to find the lost sheep; she knew His heart, and could not say no when He said Go to far-away India to rescue the little ones sold into slavery. That same endless love runs to the ends of the earth for me, to redeem my life from the darkness. And I hear the Beloved Disciple John’s words: “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him.” (1 John 4:9)  How could we not trust a love like that?

Amy Carmichael spelled out faith like this: “…we trust all that the love of God does; all He gives, and all He does not give; all He says, and all He does not say.  To it all we say, by His loving enabling, I trust.  Let us be content with our Lord’s will, and tell Him so….The more we understand His love, the more we trust.” (Edges of His Ways, p.175) Giving up control to someone else is easy when that Someone loves you more than His own life, when you know Him well enough to put all your doubts to rest.

I choose to trust You today, Lord; help me to trust You more.  Not only what You bring to my doorstep, but also the things You say No to.  I trust that You are good and that You love me deeply, and that the things You give me are what I should have this day, no matter whether they seem happy or sad.  Even when things don’t make sense, I choose to say I trust You just because I know Your love.

**For more about Amy Carmichael, read A Chance to Die, by Elisabeth Elliot.

~~~~~~~

I wait for You now
Like the desert waits for the rain;
Like a child at the end of the day
I know You’ll come through.
I trust what You say,
As a treasure no one can take;
Every word so steady and safe
You always come through.
And all You’ve ever shown
Is love that’s willing to go
To the ends of the earth for me.
And all I’ll ever need
Is who You are to me
This love that’s willing to reach
To the ends of the earth for me.

Coming Through, Kim Walker-Smith

~~~~~~~

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father…that according to the riches of His glory He may grant you to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith– that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.  

Ephesians 3:14, 16-19

Worshiping Changes You

Originally published June 22, 2012.

I remember starting out on this lifestyle of worship all those years ago, and how in the long day of worship seminars with different speakers, this one thought planted itself deep and grew a harvest in our hearts: “Leading worship on Sunday morning is the culmination of a week of personal worship; your heart should find its way easily into God’s presence so that when you are in front of others you can take them along in the path you know well already.” It was valuable advice from a veteran lead-worshiper, and a perspective that changed who we were as people.

It is no great wonder that when we focus our hearts and minds on knowing God it tends to spring up in deep wells of praise and thankfulness. What we couldn’t predict at the time was how the spiritual practice of focus and giving thanks would affect the way we thought about life, and hardships, and personal purity…how worship would drown out depression and grumbling, and soak into every fear-filled corner…how the practice of living in God’s presence would bring purpose and beauty to the treadmill of the mundane and transform it all into sacred…and isn’t that the way all of us Christ-followers should live together? As worshipers focused on the One who matters most?

What if each of us took seriously the calling to be a worshiper, and learned to tread that path into the presence of God so easily that no matter where we were or who we were with, we could lead others along in the paths we know well already? That is what it means to be a people who know God and make Him known.

~~~~~~~

In the silent times : seek God… In the painful times : praise God… In the harried times : hallow God… and in the terrible times : trust God. And at all times — at all times – Thank God.

Ann Voskamp

~~~~~~~

Because Your love is better than life, my lips will glorify You. I will praise You as long as I live, and in Your name I will lift up my hands.

Psalm 63:3-4

Where Do We Go from Here?

If the difficulties of the past year have stripped away the comfortable veneer we wear– exposed what we actually value, what we actually depend on for well-being and security, and where we look to for deliverance– then the start of the new year begs us to consider what we will do with what we have learned. And my influence in the big wide world may be limited, but here in my heart I can choose to make a difference.

In the light of upheaval, my daily routines are thrown into sharper focus, and I find myself wanting to leave behind careless habits and mindless old grooves worn deep. As I step away from the lifestyle I took for granted, I can see how often I have done things to please others or to find comfort, and how slow I have been to learn wisdom. Difficult times have a way of shining a spotlight on just how flimsy and foolish is the shelter you are building, and how unreliable the foundation can be. As the calendar turns, I don’t know what this new year holds, but I want to know God better through His Word, and to build stronger… to pursue more wholeheartedly the things He values. There is freedom in a fresh start– whether it is a clean unwritten page in a planner, or the dawn of a new day in which to find His mercies poured out– and here within the boundaries of my heart I am free to change, to make better choices, and to grow.

This year I can choose to trust God more in what He gives and what He does not give. I can choose self-sacrifice, and generosity, and giving thanks in all things. I can choose above all to hope in His goodness, and to be awake to the transforming presence of His Spirit. The Church-planter’s words are ringing in my ears as he says “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) And if it is tempting to point fingers at all the institutions and individuals out there who have let us down in the past twelve months, then let us take responsibility to do better…be better…in our own circles in the months to come. Let us choose to turn our eyes on Jesus and what He is accomplishing through these difficulties, and let us rejoice in all the unexpected ways He provides for us, when we seek Him.

The Church-planter is laying it out plain as day for us….

Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.  Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!

Romans 12:9-16

~~~~~~~

Scripture is filled with real people who had real failures, real struggles, real inadequacies, and real inabilities. And God shook the earth with them. For it is not so much from our strength that God draws, but from his own invincible might.

Scott Sauls

Listening for God’s Voice

Originally published December 7, 2012.

Sometimes we hear God’s voice in unexpected places. Take a look at Moses. A blazing bush all afire with glory and a mission impossible coming straight from heaven’s throne…not your ordinary day with the sheep. My life seems so much less amazing, more slow-moving, and sometimes I wish I could hear God that vividly and life-changingly.

But it occurs to me in this Advent season of waiting that it’s all a matter of perspective, because Moses spent forty years leading sheep around, day in and day out in that wilderness, occupied with the mind-numbingly everyday existence of water and grass, wool and lambs, getting married and raising a son. Decades of slow-moving days with only the ordinary sounds of life. But when he wrote it down later he was careful to note that “God saw the people of Israel– and God knew.” (Exodus 2:25) In all those ordinary slow-moving days, God was there and God was at work to bring about His plans, listening to the cries of His people for deliverance. And when the time was right He spoke to the man He had prepared for the task and bullied him into doing it. Really. A man just as full of insecurities and fears as I am, who needed some pushing to get him going.

When Moses saw the bush on that one not-so-ordinary day he knew it was worth turning aside from his work to see, important enough to stop and listen. An impressive sight, certainly, but in the solitude of the open spaces under the stars and the changing seasons he had already seen the glory of God in a million everyday ways, listened to the wind and the thunder and the still small voice of God’s presence…and I wonder if he felt like he was waiting for deliverance too… if he recognized the bush for what it was: a fiery milestone of change in his life.

As I listen for God’s voice amid the everyday sounds of an ordinary life, let me remember that He is here and He knows. He is working out His plans, listening to the cries of His people, has a part for me to play if I will pay attention and not get distracted by the demands of everyday chores and needs, or discouraged by the slow passage of time. Because here in the everyday I am tuning my heart to His, bending to obey, and persevering to fill the purpose He has for me.

And if I can learn to hear God’s voice in the ordinary days, then someday when the Extraordinary blazes down from heaven, I will recognize it and be ready to follow. Really, which is the larger miracle, that a bush can burn with glory in the desert… or that God Himself speaks to me in the everyday,  in the quiet spaces of my heart? Emmanuel, God with us…I am listening.

~~~~~~~

It is amazing what the quiet holding of the soul before the Lord will do to the external and seemingly uncontrollable tumult around us. It is in that stillness that the Voice will be heard, the only voice in all the universe that speaks peace to the deepest part of us.

Elizabeth Elliot

~~~~~~~

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope. I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Psalm 130:5-6

When You Need a Clear Path Through the Wilderness

We mark our way through November, silently counting as this strange year winds down to the end. Counting off the days, counting up the blessings “coming down from the Father of heavenly lights.” And we can count ourselves blessed that when everything around us shifts and quakes until we hardly recognize the life we are living, still He “does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:17) The very act of thanks-giving plants our soul in the truth of the Giver’s goodness, of His unchanging nature. Make no mistake, gratitude is warfare– one simple constant refrain that shuts up the Enemy’s whispers about whether God is actually on our side.

It is as simple as this: the act of paying attention to God’s gifts and saying thank you opens my eyes to see Him present and active in my life. I need that constant reminder that I am His beloved child, especially when the winds blow hard, because the only way to get through the howling storm is to keep my eyes fixed on Him. And I need to remember over and over that all is gift, because it is so easy to slide into a sense of entitlement about what I have.

When I start to be consumed with the things I lack, or to obsess over what I might lose, or to compare what I have with what someone else has been given, it’s like losing my compass, and who knows what sad and hurtful paths I’ll tumble down before I finally come to my senses. After you get lost in the dark enough times you start to learn the importance of staying close to the Shepherd, to feel how good is His care. Being thankful re-orients my heart’s affection on the Giver of all things…reminds me that the very air I breathe is grace.

And when I can’t think of anything to thank Him for, I know it’s my focus that has shifted away from the Father, not His attention toward me. It is the red-flag warning that my vision is clouding over; I am trying to write my own story, instead of following where He leads. Funny how quick we are to criticize the wandering Israelites for being so blind. How could they keep whining about the good old days of planting cucumbers by the Nile when they were eating food God literally rained down on them? It seems like we all suffer from a blind eye–wanting a quick fix to our problems, an escape from the wilderness, any attractive thing– instead of cherishing the daily miracle of manna. Gratitude opens my eyes to see the bigger picture of God’s amazing plans.

It always surprises me how the Weeping Prophet could be living through a tragedy, but still could say somehow, “Yet this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:21-23) When I choose to be thankful for God’s daily lovingkindness, I am setting aside my ideas of how things should be, and submitting to what He wants to do. Choosing to be thankful declares that I trust His loving rule. Telling Him I am thankful brings peace to my heart. Such a small simple practice that anchors the spirit in hope and blazes a trail through the wilderness.

~~~~~~~

Let all the earth, let every heart,
Come and sing how great You are;
Not even death could overcome
Jesus Christ, the King of love.
The curse of sin is broken now;
No fear, no lie will hold me down.
The Son of Man reigns over all–
Jesus Christ, the King of love

All my praise could never be enough
To give You thanks for all You’ve done.
Forever I will lift You up,
Jesus Christ, the King of love.

King of Love, Jesus Culture

~~~~~~~

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise….Then the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9